October 5, 2016

A Hillary Clinton Presidency

Devil You Know With Full Force 2014 20
By S. Bollmann, via Wikimedia Commons
Although I remain doubtful that I will be able to support Hillary Clinton for president, I will say this for her: we know what to expect from her as president. I don't mean that we can accurately predict every decision she would make or anything like that. I mean that we can probably anticipate much about how she would govern. She has the benefit of a long record of public service that tells us quite a bit about how she views the world and what we can expect from her.

She would likely continue many of President Barack Obama's domestic policies, take a more hawkish approach to foreign policy, and probably be less progressive than Obama overall while still being more progressive than most of Republican candidates we have had recently. Based on what we have seen from her in her general election campaign, it should be apparent that she is no Bernie Sanders; she's likely to deliver something similar to what we have seen from the Obama presidency, only more conservative in some key areas.

For some voters, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If I were to put myself in the shoes of someone who usually voted Republican but was unable to vote for Trump, I could imagine voting for Clinton. She wouldn't be ideal, as the person I'm pretending to be would still find her too liberal. And yet, she'd almost certainly be more conservative than Obama (e.g., more hawkish and more pro-business). The version of Clinton who ran against Obama in 2008 was clearly more conservative, and the version we have seen since the Democratic primary wrapped up has not seemed all that different. Thus, I could imagine such a voter seeing her as a step in the right direction on at least some issues. I suspect that the sort of Republican who was reasonably happy with President George W. Bush, especially with regard to his foreign policy, might be reasonably happy with much of what Clinton is likely to bring.

I could also imagine Clinton being good for someone who has been genuinely satisfied with President Obama and is not interested in seeing major departures from his policies. I would think that such a voter would be reassured by the prospect of a Clinton administration. She will not do everything the same, but she's unlikely to be different in radical ways that could create uncertainty and upheaval. I think this prospect was one of the things that led some ardent Obama supporters to worry about Sanders.

Of course, voters who are to the left of President Obama and who have not found his administration sufficiently progressive in many areas are unlikely to be happy with a Clinton administration. For these voters, Clinton is a tough sell. They want major change, and she is unlikely to pursue it. Many will support her as the lesser evil vs. Donald Trump; however, I do not expect that most who do so will feel particularly enthusiastic about it. They'll likely see themselves more as voting against Trump rather than for Clinton. Others may decide that Clinton is too conservative, has poor judgment, or is not sufficiently trustworthy, and will take a hard look at third party options.

If one does limit one's comparison to Clinton and Trump, I believe that the predictability of a Clinton administration gives her a big advantage over Trump. I'm not sure anybody would claim to know what to expect from a Trump presidency. For some voters, this may be a case where the devil you know is preferable to the alternative.